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 Lucy Matilda <I>Thompson</I> Kenney

Lucy Matilda Thompson Kenney

Death 22 Jun 1925 (aged 112)
Nicholls, Coffee County, Georgia, USA
Burial Nicholls, Coffee County, Georgia, USA
Memorial ID 61075205 · View Source
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Known during the Civil War as Private Bill Thompson, Lucy Matilda Thompson Gauss cut her thick hair and disguised herself by wearing a pair of her husband's suits and boarded a train for Virginia to fight alongside him during the early years of the Civil War. He never survived the war but "Private Bill" did -- bringing his body home for burial.
Lucy Matilda Thompson was born November 21, 1812 in Bladenboro, North Carolina. She was tall and masculine -- though not without feminine charm -- and she was a deft horsewoman, expert with a rifle and relished hunting.

In 1861, just as the war erupted, Thompson married Bryant Gauss who soon joined the Army of the Confederacy. Fearing he would be killed and lie unidentified, the new Mrs. Gauss oiled her squirrel musket and enlisted in Company D, 18th North Carolina Infantry, Confederate States of America. Neighbors and friends sympathized with her bravery and kept her identity secret. So did Captain Robert Tate and Lieutenant Wiley Sykes, who admired her ability with a rifle, her talent for jokes as well as her husky throated singing voice. They also prized her skill to nurse the camp's sick and wounded.

Masquerading as Private Bill Thompson, Lucy participated in a number of battles, receiving a head wound either at the First Battle of Manassas or the Siege of Richmond. In any case the wound -- an iron shell scrap tore open her scalp from forehead to crown -- sent her to a hospital for two months. Somehow she managed to conceal her identity and fled back to her unit as soon as she could.

Bryant Gauss was killed at the Seven Days Battle near Richmond. Lucy Gauss obtained permanent furlough and took him for burial. She bore her first child, Mary Caroline Gauss, on January 21, 1864.

After the war, the widow and small child moved to Savannah, where in late 1866, Lucy Gauss married union army veteran, Joseph P. Kenney. Together they had six children. Remarkably, Mrs. Kenney gave birth to their first at the age of 55 in 1868, and the last in 1881 at the age of 69!

Lucy Matilda Gauss Kenney kept her military exploits a secret until 1914, when she told her story to her pastor. Fearing nothing at the age of 102 but God, Lucy's motto was "Hold your head up and die hard."

She lived in various parts of Georgia before she died in Nicholls, Georgia at the remarkable age of 112 years, 7 months and 2 days. Lucy Gauss Kenney is buried in the Meeks Cemetery near Nicholls. Joseph Kenney died September 7, 1913 at the age of 107 years 5 months and I day.

Pvt Lucy Matilda Gauss Kinney
Georgia House of Representatives - 1995/1996 Sessions
HR 233 - Private Lucy Matilda Gauss Bridge; designate
Page Numbers - 1/ 2

House Vote: Yeas 154
Nays 0

Senate Vote: Yeas 48
Nays 0

Designating the Private Lucy Matilda Gauss Bridge; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, Lucy Matilda Gauss was born near Bladensborough, North Carolina, in 1812 of sturdy Revolutionary stock and married Bryant Gauss shortly before the beginning of the Civil War in 1861; and

WHEREAS, when Bryant Gauss volunteered for service in the Army of the Confederacy, Lucy Matilda Gauss was reluctant to stay behind, rolling bandages and weaving cloth for uniforms, not knowing from day to day the fate of her husband; and

WHEREAS, a tall, healthy woman who could ride like a cowboy, hunt all day without wearying, and shoot a rifle with the best in her county, she chose to cut her hair, don her husband's clothes, oil her squirrel musket, and board a troop train for Virginia under the name of Private Bill Thompson; and

WHEREAS, in her devotion and love for her young husband, she feared that he would be killed in battle and lie unidentified in an unknown grave; and

WHEREAS, the volunteers from that section were neighbors and friends who sympathized with her fears and valued her skills as an expert sharpshooter, her singing voice which raised the soldiers' spirits during the long marches, and her gentle care for the wounded; and

WHEREAS, she marched shoulder to shoulder with the other soldiers for days through rain and snow, slept on wet ground without a blanket, shared scanty rations, and, as her shoes wore out, left bloody footprints in the snow of northern Virginia; and

WHEREAS, she was wounded in the first battle of Manassas and ordered to return home after her sex was discovered in the and her company, changed only by a permanent scar on her scalp; and

WHEREAS, when Private Bryant Gauss was killed in the Seven Days' Battle near Richmond, she was granted a permanent furlough to take his body home for burial through a countryside torn by two armies and filled with deserters, camp followers, and wounded soldiers; and

WHEREAS, after the war, she moved to Savannah, Georgia, married again, and did not tell the story of her war experiences in Georgia until 1914; and

WHEREAS, the heroism of Private Lucy Matilda Gauss was recently revealed to her descendants by the genealogical research of her great, great-grandson, Perry Luther Streat, Jr.; and

WHEREAS, this heroine died at the age of 112 in Nicholls, Georgia, having feared nothing in life except God and her first husband's death.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the bridge over Hurricane Creek on State Route 32, in Coffee County, Georgia, is designated the Private Lucy Matilda Gauss Bridge in memory of her courage.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Transportation is authorized and directed to erect and maintain appropriate signs designating the bridge.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Clerk of the House of Representatives is authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to her great, great-grandson, Perry Luther Streat, Jr., and to the City of Nicholls, Georgia, for display in the City Hall.

Office of the Clerk of the House Robert E. Rivers, Jr., Clerk of the House Last Updated on 01/02/97

Family Members

  • Created by: Jerry Barnard
  • Added: 3 Nov 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 61075205
  • Jerry Barnard
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Lucy Matilda Thompson Kenney (21 Nov 1812–22 Jun 1925), Find A Grave Memorial no. 61075205, citing Meeks Cemetery, Nicholls, Coffee County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Jerry Barnard (contributor 47102223) .